The newest in-house movement from the house of Breitling for 2012 is the caliber 05. It builds on the original caliber 01 by adding a handy world time ring to the dial. The movement debuts in the good looking Transocean Unitime watch, which will now be promoted by new Breitling brand ambassador David Beckham. I go hands-on with the watch to tell you what it is all about.
Recently Breitling unveiled the modern Transocean collection with a three-hand and chronograph model which I reviewed hands-on here. The Transocean is a slick, retro-looking boardroom watch in a contemporary size, fitting for today's "Breitling guy." That means the three-hand automatic isn't dainty being 43mm wide. This new Transocean Unitime however is larger at 46mm wide. That certainly isn't too large for a Breitling, but is probably close to the size ceiling for what people want in a classic looking timepiece.
Functionally, the Transocean Unitime adds a world time ring and aesthetically it also adds a globe in the center of the dial. When I first saw pictures of the Unitime I thought the globe look glossy and might have been in mother-of-pearl. No, not for this manly watch. The center globe is more a blue with a natural looking color gradient with gray-colored land masses. It certainly conveys the message of "this is a travelers watch" - no confusion there. Everyone loves a nice 24 hour disc-based world time feature. You've seen this on pieces from Patek Philippe, down to entry level luxury watch brands. It is very handy. For a long time if you wanted a good world timer watch with a chronograph you'd get something like a Girard-Perregaux ww.tc (reviewed here). Now you can add a Breitling Transocean Unitime to that short list.
"Unitime" actually stands for "universal time." I think that Breitling didn't want to sound ordinary and came up with a name that was anything but "world timer." I would have done the same. Though "Unitime" sorta of sounds like it means "one time," which is ironically the exact opposite of what this watch displays. Added to the dial on a watch like this are two moving discs. First is a 24 hour disc that is used in conjunction with second, a reference city ring. Together these are used to tell the time in each of the 24 main time zones based on the local time. You always need to set the local time on the city ring when moving around. The good news is that because this is built on the 01 movement, you can adjust only the hour when changing your time zone. That helps preserve timepiece accuracy when setting the watch.
Another useful feature that is part of the 01 and helps out here in the 05 is that the date changes while adjusting the watch forward or backwards in time. This means that when traveling the date will go forward or back if necessary without having to complete a separate setting task. The city ring also has indicators for those cities that recognize daylight saving time. I swear, I am so looking forward to the global annihilation of day light saving time. Most travelers looking for a good mechanical timepiece to take with them usually can't go wrong with a world time chronograph in my personal opinion.
Design-wise the central blue globe is going to be hit or miss with watch buyers. Breliting offers the Unitime in both a black or white dial option, with the watch case being available in either steel or 18k red gold. While the piece is in the Transocean collection, I swear sometimes it feels like the long lost cousin of the Breitling Navitimer... just replace the slide-rule for world time, and a different mother. Also, while I haven't spent a lot of time with the caliber 05, I have spent time with others in the Breitling in-house made movement family, and they have been really solid performers (and are all Chronometers).
Then there is the matter of the pieces' new ambassador. Here in the US, Mr. Beckham is probably the most popular member of the least popular major sport. I know in Europe and South America for example people are soccer crazy - so any watch brand affiliation with Mr. Beckham is probably really good. These new ad images from an upcoming Breitling/Beckham campaign are of a very high production value, but may leave a lot of people wondering "who is that tattooed guy wearing the pilot watch?" Or maybe I am just living under a rock. What do you think of his "cafe racer" style hair cut and wardrobe? It actually doesn't matter... Breitling is fortunate enough to not need David's help in the US. I've done some little polls here and there and continue to learn that people in the US who have some appreciation of nice things but know nothing about watches do happen to know Breitling, and have a positive association with it.
The styling of the new Breitling Transocean Unitime might not be for everyone, but it is a solid (and arguably needed) addition to brand's lineup. That it has an in-house movement and formidable retro looks will only add to its appeal among Breitling's most elite fan base. My choice is the 18k red gold version with the black dial, which of course is probably the most expensive. In steel the Breitling Transocean Unitime retails for $11,200.
Tech specs from Breitling:
•Manufacture Breitling Caliber 05 Movement
•Chronometer-certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC)
•1/4th Second Chronograph
•30-minute and 12-hour totalizers
•Glare proofed on both sides
•Diameter: 46 mm
•Water resistant to 100 meters
•High-frequency (28,000 vibrations per hour)
•Over 70-hour power reserve
•Convex sapphire crystal
•Case: Steel or 18k red gold
•Dials: Black or Polar White